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Sport England

Volume 459: debated on Monday 16 April 2007

Sport England now holds a clear position in the sporting landscape with a primary focus on sustaining and increasing participation in community sport. It does this through promoting, investing and advising on sporting pathways, including sporting facilities. The new chair and chief executive are continuing the reforms to ensure that Sport England becomes a world class delivery agency, including delivering—as the hon. Gentleman will probably agree—the great performance yesterday in Bahrain in which young Lewis Hamilton set a record of three podium appearances in his first three races. I sent him a letter today wishing him well for the rest of the season.

I am grateful for that reply and I am sure that the whole House would wish to send our good wishes to Mr. Hamilton. Despite the lengthy reform review of Sport England, it has just suffered a £56 million cut, which the chairman, Mr. Mapp—the Minister’s lifelong friend—said was a cut too far and a true loss to community sport. He also seriously questioned the legacy from the 2012 Olympics. Does the Minister disagree with his lifelong friend?

The answer is simply yes. Sometimes friends fall out, and we fell out on this occasion. I remind the hon. Gentleman that under this Administration in the past five years, investment in community sport has increased by 40 per cent., and Government and lottery investment in sport and physical activity has been £4 billion since 1997. The new National Sports Foundation has attracted some £21 million investment, which is way beyond what is being done through Building Schools for the Future or the investment that local authorities are making in sport. Community sport has never had greater investment than at present, even with the small reduction in lottery funding as a result of the Olympics.

Can my right hon. Friend assure me that his tiff with Derek Mapp of Sport England will in no way affect the application that I made many years ago for a swimming baths at Bolsover? I hope that my right hon. Friend can tell me that everything is going well and that we are close to the date of an announcement. Perhaps he and I will be able to go for a swim together, and Derek Mapp might be able to come along too.

The cheque is in the post—on one condition, which is that my hon. Friend starts coaching an Olympic champion for 2012 from north-east Derbyshire or Chesterfield. I have no doubt that the new facility, which will—I am sure—now be realised, will start to provide benefits not only to the community, but to the elite swimmers in the area.

Does the Minister agree that Sport England suffers from two considerable structural handicaps? The first is that the amount of lottery money it gets has declined dramatically from the 25 per cent. envisaged by the Major Government to some 13 or 14 per cent. today, after the Olympic raid. The second is that it tries to deliver sport on a regional basis, whereas the Central Council of Physical Recreation says that sport in this country should work on a national and a county basis. Is it not time to follow the example of the Australians, who have had dramatic success in that area by delivering increases in mass participation through the sport governing bodies, based on schemes delivered in the communities?

It is unfortunate that the hon. Gentleman gives only half the story. When I spoke to the Federal Sports Minister in Australia a few months ago, he was very envious of what we have been able to do in our schools in terms of participation. In 2001, some 2 million kids were doing two hours of quality physical activity or sport a week. Today, there are 5 million. That is 6 million hours every week done by our children in our schools, and that is linked to the two extra-curricular hours.

What the hon. Gentleman does not say about lottery money is the contribution that has been made by the new opportunities fund of £0.75 billion which has facilitated more than 2,000 refurbished or newly built sports facilities up and down the country. The hon. Gentleman should give the whole picture, not part of it.

As my right hon. Friend is being very generous today, can he ensure that there will be a cheque for Chorley, which is looking forward to a much needed sporting village? What help and support can my right hon. Friend provide through his Department and Sport England to ensure that Chorley can be proud of quality facilities for the future of sport?

My hon. Friend does not have quite the charisma of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner)—when he has had a little more time in the House he may be able to persuade as much as my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover. Jesting apart, the community sports hubs are one of Sport England’s developments in bringing in private sector investment in sport that we have never had before. Indeed, over the next period, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Hoyle) and beyond, under the leadership of Derek Mapp at Sport England, we will see a significant increase in investment through the private sector in good quality sports facilities up and down the land.